Rice is a staple commodity for people in China, India and many other Asian countries. Out of a world production of about 600 million tons of rice (paddy), more than 50% is accounted for by the two Asian giants, China and India. Since rice is the staple food grain, very little is left over for export from these countries. India even had to resort to rice imports in the past to meet the supply-demand gap. The green revolution that saw a quantum jump in yield enabled the country to meet the increasing demand from a growing population but the productivity has since stagnated at about 3 tons of paddy per hectare. In comparison China was able to evolve hybrid varieties that could yield up to 9 tons per hectare though its average nation-wise productivity figure, as being claimed, stands at 7.2 tons per hectare. Recent reports claiming the development of a super yielding variety of rice in that country, that could raise the yield to as high as 13.5 tons per hectare, is of intense interest to other rice producing countries in Asia.
"Yuan Longping, director of the National Hybrid Rice Engineering Technology Research Center, said on a forum held in Wuxi city on Sunday that he and his team are working on a new version of high-yield hybrid rice and might complete it in 2012, reports Xinhua. He said the new phase-III super hybrid rice is expected to yield 13.5 tons of rice per hectare, compared with 9 tons from the current second-generation hybrid rice. Hybrid rice account for over 57% of the total 29 million hectares of rice China plants in the nation every year, with an average output capacity of 7.2 tons per hectare. "The average yield of hybrid rice is at least 20 percent more than that of inbred rice, feeding 70 million more people annually," Yuan said, adding rice is a major food feeding over half of the world's population".
It is not clear how this feat has been achieved by the agricultural scientists though hybridization technique could have been used efficiently. Also not certain is whether genetic modification was involved or such high yields could be sustainable during large scale trials. While yield is one of the most critical factors that will decide about the food availability, the quality characteristics will determine the acceptability of new varieties to the consumers in any free market. As China's priority is feeding the masses and preventing large scale starvation, R & D policy aiming at quantum jump in productivity, irrespective of the quality, may be justified.